Climate Change

Vast areas of southern and central Queensland remain inundated as three of the state’s major river systems—the Fitzroy, Condamine and Burnett rivers—continue to reach record heights, impacting on more than 200,000 residents and bringing the coal industry and wide sections of agricultural to a standstill.
According to the latest forecasts, weekend downpours will produce flash flooding on the coast and see southern Queensland towns such St George, Surat, Hebel and Dirranbandi engulfed. Over the next few days, flooding will move into north-eastern New South Wales, isolating small towns such as Goodooga, Weilmoringle and Angledool, along with other communities. South Australian and Victorian authorities have warned that serious flooding could eventually occur right along the Murray River system.
While the Australian media is providing blanket coverage of the disaster, there is a deafening silence about the underlying factors that have produced it. Above all, there has been no examination of the failure of federal, state and local authorities to adequately defend the homes and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of ordinary people.
The immediate cause of the ocean of water covering the state—estimated to be the size of Germany and France combined—is the La Niña weather pattern, along with rainfall from the recent Tropical Cyclone Tasha. The current La Niña, which began in autumn 2010 and is expected to continue until April, has produced the wettest season on record in both Queensland and the Northern Territory, with most of the rain falling in the last six months.
La Niña occurs when surface sea temperatures are cooler than normal in the eastern Pacific, and warmer than usual in the western Pacific. This produces a build up of warmer water along Australia’s east coast that drags in moist air and produces massive downpours.
While state and federal politicians have declared the floods to be at “Biblical proportions”, implying that masses of people have been hit by...